L-R: Stef Blok, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs; David Clarinval, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Service and Budget; Credit: MAEE

Luxembourg's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Jean Asselborn, chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Benelux Union in Brussels yesterday.

On Monday 9 December 2019, the Benelux Committee of Ministers met in Brussels under the chairmanship of Jean Asselborn. The Netherlands was represented by Stef Blok, Minister of Foreign Affairs, whilst Belgium was represented by David Clarinval, Belgium's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Civil Service and Budget.

In the presence of the Benelux College of the Secretaries General, the Committee of Ministers evaluated the results obtained in 2019. As part of the implementation of the annual plan 2019, the focus was on the energy transition and the fight against climate change, strengthening the internal market and promoting digitalisation.

The Luxembourg Presidency has placed particular emphasis on controlling global warming and adapting to climate change. Likewise, the interest of Benelux consumers and companies has been put at the heart of the concerns, notably with the implementation of the Benelux recommendation on territorial supply restrictions in the Benelux. This recommendation is aimed at stemming the difficulties businesses face in accessing the supply networks of their choice within the EU's internal market.

The Luxembourg Presidency has also invested in the implementation of the new Benelux Treaty on Police Cooperation, signed on 23 July 2018, and worked to improve digital use between the three countries in order to allow cross-border deployment of specific projects. Among these are mobile payments, autonomous cars and improving cross-border healthcare.

At the level of intergovernmental cooperation, Benelux cooperation in the field of foreign policy has been strengthened. This was the result of a series of consultation meetings at the ministerial level and at the level of the senior officials of the three countries, including joint meetings between the Benelux Foreign Ministers and their counterparts from the Baltic States and with the Visegrad Group. A renewed political declaration of Benelux with North Rhine-Westphalia was signed on the sidelines of the Summit on 2 April 2019 in Luxembourg.

The ministers agreed on the Benelux annual work plan for 2020 and adopted the budget for next year. The work plan is the strategic document of the Benelux Secretariat-General which lists all the initiatives to be launched and the projects to be carried out during the next year.

In addition, Dutch Minister Stef Blok then informed his colleagues on the first outlines of the future Dutch Presidency of the Benelux, which began on 1 January.

Finally, the Committee of Ministers appointed Alain de Muyser, who is of Luxembourg nationality, to the post of Benelux Secretary-General from 1 January 2020. Minister Asselborn thanked the outgoing Secretary-General Thomas Antoine for the work done in recent years and the "excellent cooperation" throughout the Luxembourg Presidency of the Benelux.